Scarlatti’s Griselda is based on a story from the Decameron. Gualtiero, king of Sicily, has married Griselda, a shepherdess. The people are upset that the king has married beneath him and are getting stroppy. Gualtiero sets out to prove Griselda a worthy consort by testing her constancy. He repudiates Griselda and sends her back to shepherding while arranging to marry an Apulian princess Constanza, who both he and Corrado, duke of Apulia, know to be his daughter by Griselda. It’s complicated by one Ottone who is infatuated by Griselda and Roberto, son of Corrado, who is in love with Costanza, who returns his feelings. Griselda is put through various humiliating trials in which she repeatedly shows her devotion to Gualtiero. Eventually the people recognise her virtue and all is restored. One notable thing, unlike his predecessor Cavalli, Scarlatti doesn’t inject any incongruous or comic passages into the opera. It’s all deadpan serious.
September 21st at 8pm Soundstreams have a choral concert at Koerner Hall. It’s called Choral Splendour and features Soundstreams’ Choir 21 with Meghan Lindsey, Rebecca Cuddy, Owen McCausland and Alain Coulombe in a programme of music by Frehner, Pärt and Vivier. Vivier’s Zipangu will be accompanied by a live dancer and a film created by Michael Greyeyes.
September 30th also at Koerner Hall at 8pm there’s a free concert to commemorate National Truth and Reconciliation Day. Sarain Fox MCs a mixture of the solemn (testimony from a residential school survivor) and the less solemn (Tomson Highway with excerpts from Songs in the Key of Cree), drumming, dancing and the piano quintet version of Ian Cusson’s Marilyn Dumont songs sung by Rebecca Cuddy with the New Orford Quartet and philip Chiu. If you haven’t heard these songs you should and if you have, but haven’t heard this arrangement, see them anyway because this is the best version! This show is free but ticketed and tickets are going superfast.
October 1st at 7.30pm at Trinity St. Paul’s Toronto Mendelssohn Singers have a concert of (mainly) contemporary a cappella music titled The Pilgrim’s Way. This is a new initiative in which the professional core of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir will perform as a 24 person ensemble. I’m quite fond of good professional choirs singing interesting stuff (see CD and concert reviews of The Crossing and LA Master Chorale).
Opera Atelier open a run of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas on the 20th at 7.30pm at the Elgin Theatre. Meghan Lindsey and Colin Ainsworth are the lovers. Also on the 21st and 23rd.
Toronto Operetta Theatre will perform Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld on the 21st at 8pm at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. The cast includes Vania Chan, Tonatiuh Abrego, Gregory Finney, Joshua Clemenger, River Guard and Mairi Demings. Also playing on the 22nd and 23rd.
From September 11th to 25th Crow’s Theatre has a show; The Shape of Home: Songs in Search of Al Purdy. This is a sort of staged song cycle exploring the words and ideas of “Canada’s unofficial poet laureate”.
Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya is the sort of play that makes one wonder why the Russian Revolution didn’t happen much sooner. If the land owning class were living such miserable lives it must have been absolute hell for the peasants. Maybe they just couldn’t afford a guillotine? Anyway it’s playing at Crow’s Theatre right now in a production directed by Chris Abraham which runs until October 2nd.
In May of this year I reviewed a recording of Janáček’s Jenůfa from the Staatsoper unter den Linden that impressed me enough to get onto my all time favourites list. I really did not expect to come across another as good for a very long time, let alone one that is, perhaps, even better within a few months but I have. It’s the 2021 recording from the Royal Opera House and it’s really fine.
Last Night at the Cabaret Yitesh is playing at the Ashkenaz Festival at Harbourfront. It’s a crazy mix of cabaret and other influences from the wild and wacky pen of Michael Wex. The back story is that it’s 1938 and the last night that the Yiddish language Cabaret Yitesh will perform in Warsaw before being, in effect, deported. So, no longer dependent for their continued existence on the whims of the censor’s office they can let rip.
Last night, as part of the Ashkenaz Festival, we got to see Henekh Kon’s Bas-Sheve. It’s the only known pre Holocaust Yiddish opera and there’s quite a saga involved in it getting to a staging. The work dates to 1924, when it premiered in Warsaw then disappeared. In 2017 Dr. Diana Matut unearthed an incomplete piano score version which was completed and orchestrated by librettist Michael Wex and composer Joshua Horowitz to create an hour long piece that premiered in August 2019 as part of the Yiddish Summer Weimar festival.
Dmitri Tcherniakov directed Der fliegende Holländer in Bayreuth in 2021 where it was recorded. It’s no surprise given (a)Tcherniakov and (b)Bayreuth that it’s not a straightforward production. I’m not sure I have fully unpacked it and there isn’t anything in the disk package to help (just the usual essay telling the reader what he/she/they already know/s).
Having enjoyed the performance in the Toronto Music Garden of Alec Roth’s Songs in Time of War I downloaded the CD of the original version with violin rather than erhu. There are actually three pieces on the CD. There’s the complete Songs in Time of War with tenor Mark Padmore, guitarist Morgan Szymanski, harpist Alison Nicholls and violinist Philippe Honoré, there are two solo guitar pieces Canción de la Luna and Danza de la Luna (Szymanski) and Padmore and Szymanski collaborating on Chinese Gardens; a setting of four Vikram Seth poems inspired by the Ming dynasty gardens at Suzhou.